Mark Votapek: Principal Cello



In 2015-2016, Mark Votapek rejoined the Hawaii Symphony after a much too long 6-year absence from the islands.  He has been a member of the Maui-based Ebb and Flow Arts contemporary ensemble and Oahu’s Pacific Concert Artists International.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, he can be heard performing with Musica Marin, Ensemble San Francisco, at UCSF, and with the San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Symphony, and orchestras throughout the region.  Formerly a professor at University of Arizona and the Interlochen Arts Center, he continues private teaching and coaching for the San Francisco Academy Orchestra and summer teaching and performances with the Mammoth Lakes Music Festival.

Votapek has gained renown for combining music with the outdoors. He completed a 27-performance recital tour from Mexico to Canada, backpacking the entire 2700-mile  Pacific Crest Trail from concert to concert. In 2015, he performed at the Moab Music Festival, including on a multi-day Colorado River raft trip, performing in natural grottos, amphitheaters, on the rafts themselves, and shooting Class V rapids, though not simultaneously.

His previous posts as Principal Cellist of the Oregon Symphony and as Associate Principal Cello of the Saint Louis Symphony, and residencies at varied festivals, joined him with some of the world’s finest musicians and natural lands. He performed a duo with Sarah Chang at Aspen and climbed Mt. Elbert the following day, immediately followed by performances at the Olympic Music Festival and a climb of Mt. Rainier.

Votapek’s concerts have been aired numerous times on NPR stations across the United States, and his performance of Schelomo was featured on Performance Today.

How did you choose your instrument?

My parents tell me that I chose to play the cello at age 7, but I am skeptical about that. I think at age 7 I would have chosen to play the trumpet or the drums.

Favorite Composer?

Impossible to say, but I could narrow it down to Mozart, Schubert, Mahler, Brahms, Puccini, Schumann, Bartok…meh, maybe I can’t narrow it down at all.

Favorite Solo Piece?

I’ve grown close to Tortelier’s “Mon Cirque.” I hope to perform it in Hawaii sometime soon.

Other than classical music, _____ is on my phone/iPod.

I don’t have a smartphone! My phone is just a phone. But I listen to a lot of classic rock, 70’s and 80’s, mostly on the radio and on old LP’s.

Activities, hobbies, interests outside of music

I hike a lot. Mountaineering. I’ve run a bunch of marathons. But most spare time nowadays is devoted to the baby. (8-month old daughter)

Guilty pleasure?

I’m too old for guilt. But I drink enough wine and beer that on recycling day, I put out the bottles and sometimes think a little well-placed guilt would be better for my health.